All dog training books and classes address teaching your dog the important verbal commands: sit, stay, no, good dog, etc. These are important for obedience and control, but dogs are not limited to understanding your verbal communication. Have you noticed how much your dog watches you? Dogs learn simple lessons by observing your behavior. Your dog's observation of you can easily be utilized to enhance your communication and your relationship with your dog.
- Notice and confirm your dog's observation of you with a mode of nonverbal communication. This can include a nod, wave, wink, smile, etc. This is most effective when you are several feet apart with eye contact. Your dog will take notice and begin to be more observant of you.
- Blend your nonverbal commands with your verbal commands. These are examples of many natural command combinations. When you give the sit command, point to a spot. With repetition, your dog will begin to sit when you point to a spot. When you use the "no" command, shake your head. Before long your dog will understand "no" with the shake of your head. When you say "good dog," shake your head (as in yes) and your dog will soon understand your approval without you speaking. When you leave your home wave to indicate you are leaving and he is staying.
- Be consistent and reward your dog. Dogs learn through repetition. Use the same nonverbal queues repeatedly. Reward your dog with a treat when she responds to your nonverbal queues. The more time you spend around your dog, the sooner you will see results.
- Be patient. Dogs learn at different rates depending on age, health and intelligence. Consistency and patience will pay off.
- Routines help dogs feel comfortable and secure with you and their environment. A consistent morning routine will help your dog anticipate and cooperate with your expectations. Consistent feeding and outdoor times lets your dog know what to expect and increases his comfort and security. A predictable routine and environment makes for a happier dog.
- Expand on your communication. Glare challengingly and your dog is ready to play. Glance toward the door and she excites in anticipation of going outside or of a visitor's arrival. Use a firm voice when a command is important. Speak in soft tones when you'd like soothe and comfort your dog.
Following these steps will enhance your relationship with your dog. You will become more in tune with each other. Your dog will be happier and healthier. You will find her easier to manage and your time together, more rewarding.